Shusaku Uchiyama & Takeshi Miura Interview: A History of Resident Evil Music (March 2011)
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the ground-breaking survival horror series Resident Evil has a long history of offering dark, immersive soundtracks. The soundtrack for the recently released Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is especially impressive, offering a mixture of original compositions and classic arrangements recorded with full orchestra and chorus in Tokyo.
In this interview, composers Shusaku Uchiyama and Takeshi Miura reunite to discuss the making of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles' soundtrack. Given their extensive involvement in past Resident Evil projects, they also consider the score's place within the wider history of the series and what it may herald in the future. As an interlude, the duo also talk about their wider career and their involvement in other series, including Mega Man, Time Crisis, and Devil May Cry.
Interview Subjects: Shusaku Uchiyama, Takeshi Miura
Interviewer: Chris Greening
Editor: Chris Greening
Translation & Localisation: Shota Nakama, Ben Schweitzer
Coordination: Masachika Kawata
Support: Tetsuya Shibata, Shusaku Uchiyama
Chris: Shusaku Uchiyama and Takeshi Miura, many thanks for talking to us today. First of all, could you each discuss your musical backgrounds and introduce your game music works?
Shusaku Uchiyama: When I was young, I took piano lessons near my house, but I was not really a great student. I started studying music in earnest in high school, and it was then that I studied the fundamentals of music theory. When I entered college, I became interested in production and put music to the independent movies a friend of mine shot on the one hand, and played piano in an R&B band and frequented clubs where they played house and techno on the other. So I did a number of different things.
After college, I entered Capcom and scored Mega Man 8, Resident Evil 2, the GameCube version of the first Resident Evil, P.N.03, Resident Evil 4, and Devil May Cry 4, as well as a number of games which have not been released overseas.
Takeshi Miura: Hello, I'm Miura, of Sound Graffiti Studio. Nice to meet you. It is an honor to be allowed this opportunity, and I thank you. I composed my first piece when I was 17. When I was in elementary school, I had something of an affinity for the trumpet and had received private lessons for a little while, but stopped after that. Even though I didn't play any instruments, I felt that, thanks to computer technology, I could freely manipulate sounds, so I started to study music theory and composition. Later, I entered a music college, but it didn't suit me. Even so, I feel that I am using many of the things I learned there in my current work. I am still not strong in music performance. I have had nothing more than the occasional piano lessons that I started at the age of 30.
As for works, I have composed Resident Evil: Code Veronica X (Dreamcast, PS2) and Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble! (DS) for Capcom, as well as Time Crisis 3 (Arcade), Time Crisis 4 (Arcade), Cobra: The Arcade, and Razing Storm (Arcade) for Bandai Namco. Previously I had composed for Disney games for the SNES.
Chris: Shusaku Uchiyama, you debuted on the Resident Evil series with Resident Evil 2. Looking back, what features of Resident Evil 2's music made it so special to fans and a progression from the original Resident Evil? What were the primary influences when creating this work?
Shusaku Uchiyama: I worked under the eyes of director Hideki Kamiya and the lead composer, Masami Ueda, so I had to gracefully submit to their ideas and plans for the project. The first game was great as horror, but the music didn't make any kind of lasting impression. With Resident Evil 2, we combined Mr. Ueda's memorable motifs with influences from the latest blockbuster movies, and it turned out wonderfully. In the end, I was influenced most by Mr. Ueda's style of composition. He entered Capcom around the time that I did, but I have continued to receive inspiration from his work. He is a wonderful composer.
Chris: In many ways, the original music of Resident Evil Code: Veronica seems inspired by the approach of Resident Evil 2. Takeshi Miura, to what extent do you think this is true? Could you elaborate on how you developed the approach for setting and action themes for this title?
Takeshi Miura: Since Resident Evil Code: Veronica's cutscenes and scenario were created like a movie, we adopted the style of scoring used in Resident Evil 2, which was the closest to movie music of the series. When Capcom requested my services, before the game entered production, Masami Ueda and Hideaki Utsumi (who had headed Resident Evil 2's sound as lead composer and sound designer respectively) gave me some materials and talked with me about the project, kindly answering my questions. (Although I am not sure that they themseves remember this.) I believe that this was to ensure that I would maintain the series' atmosphere and not give players a sense of incongruity.
For Resident Evil Code: Veronica, the composition team, myself included, listened to many movie soundtracks and decided on a unified style. As for the event scenes, we fit the music to the scene only after the images were completed. As a result, the number of pieces is enormous, but I am confident that, in each case, the scene left a deeper impression.
Chris: Both Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica were ensemble scores that didn't feature individual track credits. Could you each outline what music you were responsible for in the original games and what music was instead handled by your co-composers?
Shusaku Uchiyama: On Resident Evil 2, I was mostly in charge of the horror-themed music that plays during investigation and the movie scenes.
Takeshi Miura: On Resident Evil Code: Veronica, I was in charge of the opening demo, the opening, the ending, and the Wesker vs Chris scenes from the cinematics. As for the BGM, I did the Alexia battle themes (all of them) and the music for the palace, the escape from Rockfort Island, and so forth.
Chris: The two of you revisited these scores for Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. Talking generally, how did you each adapt the original scores for modern consoles and rail shooter gameplay?
Shusaku Uchiyama: At the beginning, in talks with the producers and director, we agreed that we should "keep in mind that this is a horror game first and foremost, and a thrilling shooting game second." With that in mind, we went with the idea of arranging "the pieces recorded with 200 KB memory as if they had been produced now, without any restrictions."
Takeshi Miura: The producers and director had told us that the whole project should have a horror feel, so we stuck to that path. Also, since the game divides the series into separate categories (a Resident Evil 2 section, a Resident Evil Code: Veronica section, and a South America section), both of us worked to preserve the individuality of each one. Using the technology available today, we tried to renew the sound and realize the tone colors that were difficult with the technology of the time in high quality sound.
Chris: Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica have both been adapted in the past for the Gun Survivor series. Takeshi Miura, how would you compare soundtrack development for the Gun Survivor series with Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles?
Takeshi Miura: Since I myself was not in charge of the Gun Survivor series' music, I cannot offer a perfect comparison, but there are no particular confines on gun shooting games; no matter what the genre, I think "what kind of emotions do I want to convey to the players," and compose from there. My theme is "how can I trigger the players' emotions in music?"
Chris: Following the Hollywood-recorded Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles brought the series' music production back to Japan. What resulted in the decision to hire a Japanese orchestrator and orchestra for the title? More generally, what inspired the often experimental symphonic and choral arrangements for this score?
Shusaku Uchiyama: There were a number of reasons involved in the decision to produce it in Japan. First, and foremost, was the fact that Mr. Hirano and the Tokyo Chamber Orchestra, who would guarantee a spectacular result, were based in Japan. The schedule was also a factor, and we needed to think on our feet and respond quickly to its changes and demands, so we decided that producing the score in Japan was the best option. In regards to the arrangement, I was influenced to some degree by my many predecessors, but at the time I was listening to a great deal of Polish modernist music, and I may have been influenced by that as well.
Takeshi Miura: We chose Mr. Hirano as orchestrator for this score because his frantic style matched the style of Resident Evil. We chose a Japanese orchestrator because we wanted to prove that we could produce something that could rival Hollywood. I believe that, if you listen to the finished product, you will come to the same understanding. After completing the demos we met with Mr. Hirano, and the orchestration progressed without any major conflict. As for the choral arrangements, we decided on a case-by-case basis whether or not it was fitting for the game.
Chris: Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles also featured a number of original compositions. Could you discuss how you approached composing original music for this title and integrating the themes into the new scenarios? In particular, could you discuss creating two of the score's highlights, "Sleeping Beauty" and "Darkness Falls"?
Shusaku Uchiyama: For "Sleeping Beauty," the director requested "a lullaby; melodic, sorrowful, and with folk elements." It was quite difficult to combine all of these elements, but after numerous demo pieces, we settled on the final version. For "Darkness Falls," the concepts were "one piece that connects everything" and "something that gradually accumulates." I believe that, in its slow changes, I was able to capture Krauser's mental state.
Takeshi Miura: Mr. Uchiyama handled all of the new music for the Resident Evil 2 and South America sections. I wrote the new music for the military training facility, the sandworm battle, and so forth in the Resident Evil Code: Veronica section. Essentially, I composed those parts so that they would match the worldview in Code: Veronica. The director wanted the music for the military training ground to link the game's various squences together, so I used many returning motifs and such to match that. I think that the result works well with the game. Even the pieces that I arranged from the old Code: Veronica music were lengthened, with newly added phrases and themes, so not a single one of them is the same as its original version.
Chris: Shusaku Uchiyama, this is not the first time you have adapted the Resident Evil series' music into a new context, since you previously worked on the remake of Resident Evil for GameCube. How did the approach of the remake compare with the original game? What do you think the remade score brought to the interactive experience?
Shusaku Uchiyama: In a word, the approach we took for the GameCube version of the original Resident Evil was to "rebuild" it, and there were many places in which it has been changed so much that the original form cannot be discerned. I think that we succeeded in following it up in terms of horror, but we may have been overly cautious in sticking to the original.
Chris: You were also a lead composer of Resident Evil 4. What inspired the change of musical direction of this title compared to the aforementioned titles? In particular, could you focus on the use of experimental ambience throughout the title?
Shusaku Uchiyama: The change of direction for the game's music was influenced in large part by the changes in the game itself. The team wanted to display its concept of a "complete overhaul." The experimental ambient music was Ms. Misao Senbongi's idea. As the game was different from the rest of the series, we felt that the music should also develop in new ways.
Chris: Beyond the Resident Evil series, both of you have been involved in a wide variety of works. Takeshi Miura, you also inherited the music for the Time Crisis series for the third and fourth instalments. Could you elaborate on how you developed an intense orchestral sound for these projects? Did your previous experiences on Resident Evil Code: Veronica prove useful to these projects?
Takeshi Miura: I am mostly self-taught in orchestration. I listen to my favorite movie soundtracks, and even today I diligently read books on orchestral method that I find useful. In Time Crisis 3 and Time Crisis 4, I was able make use of the experience I had gained from Resident Evil Code: Veronica; with the Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles score as well, I was able to make use of that same experience. It is important to tackle each project in earnest on its own terms. I think that it all comes down to how the director wants it, how to get music that fits a particular scene, and how to evoke emotions out of the players.
Chris: Shusaku Uchiyama, you have also contributed to other darker scores such as Devil May Cry 4, P.N.03, and Lost Planet. How did your approach for these titles compare with your Resident Evil works? Were there conserved elements or did each project demand something new from you?
Shusaku Uchiyama: I followed the concepts of each individual game in my approach. With Devil May Cry 4, I followed the musical style of the rest of the series. P.N.03 was a shooting game with a focus on rhythm, so the music was lively. With Lost Planet, I participated as supervisor, so I worked out the musical direction for the game.
Chris: Over the years, you've also had some involvement in the Mega Man series, namely with Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9 Arrange Soundtrack, Mega Man 10, and the Mega Man 10 Image Soundtrack. How did working on these relatively lighter works compare with the Resident Evil series? Is it satisfying to know that you have been an integral part of the development of Capcom's two biggest series?
Shusaku Uchiyama: Of course, to be involved with two such great series has been an invaluable experience, as well as a great asset. Even though the game is over ten years old, I have a deep emotional connection to Mega Man 8, in particular, as it was the first project that I led by myself.
Chris: Returning back to Resident Evil, many have defined Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles as the pinnacle of the series' music so far. To what extent do you think this is the case? In what place does the game lie in terms of the series' wider musical evolution?
Shusaku Uchiyama: I am overjoyed that people have said such things. It may be because Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles combines the high points of the series.
Takeshi Miura: Thank you very much. I don't know if it is the high point of the series' music or not, but to have people enjoy one's creations is the greatest happiness for a creator. The Chronicles series is a look back over the Resident Evil series history, so we try to emphasize the unique qualities of each game's music. If there is another Chronicles game, I would expect that the music would take a similar direction.
Chris: Now that Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles' soundtrack has been successful, many are curious about what is next for Resident Evil's music. Could the score open the way for a fully orchestral Resident Evil 6 soundtrack or even a new Resident Evil Orchestral Concert? Would you both consider returning to further Resident Evil productions in the future?
Shusaku Uchiyama: I am unable to say at this time what will happen with the next game or whether there will be a concert. I do believe, however, that the next game will be spectacular, without any doubt. Of course, I would would love to be involved with any future projects if there is a chance.
Takeshi Miura: Whether or not to use a full orchestra depends on the budget, but of course, it also depends on whether or not it suits the game. The sound of a live orchestra is rich and dynamic, but there are also times when using the internal sound chip fits better. If the players want a concert, then please ask Capcom about it. I think it would be great if it actually happened (laughs). My involvement with the series from now on will also depend on whether or not Capcom requests it. If I am called upon, I would want to provide music that could stand up to anything else in the series.
Chris: Thank you very much for talking to us today, Shusaku Uchiyama and Takeshi Miura. Are either of you working on anything new at the moment? Also, would you like to say anything else to readers around the world?
Shusaku Uchiyama: The project I am working on currently has not been announced yet. However, I am sure that all of you will love it, and I hope that you enjoy both the game and its music when it is released. Whatever you feel, I would love to hear your views. Thank you very much for today's interview.
Takeshi Miura:I had a wonderful time working on Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles' music. I am happy that the music born out of that experience has reached all of you. I am grateful to all of you who enjoyed the game or listened to the soundtrack. Thank you all very much. I am currently in the middle of a project, and I hope that all of you will anticipate this project from myself and Sound Graffiti Studio. Truly, thank you very much for today's interview.
We are grateful to Capcom's Masachika Kawata for kindly coordinating this interview. In addition, many thanks to Tetsuya Shibata for organising Shusaku Uchiyama's involvement, and Shusaku Uchiyama for organising Takeshi Miura's involvement. Finally, thank you to Shota Nakama and Ben Schweitzer for their translations. All images © CAPCOM CO., LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED / © CAPCOM U.S.A., INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.